Bayshore garage collapse 'a learning experience,' engineer says

Beyond heavy snow likely playing a role in the Feb. 23 partial collapse of the Silver Spring Parking Garage at Bayshore, we still don't know exactly what caused it. 

A civil engineer said engineers are figuring out what went wrong to try to keep this from happening again.

"It was a failure," said P.J. Burbach, Burbach Co. "That’s really rare."

Upon seeing the collapse, many of us had this same thought.

"The first thing was, ‘Wow, nobody was hurt,’" said Burbach.

You may also think twice before driving into the next parking garage.

The collapse could lead to change when it comes to how parking garages are managed in general.

"The gist of it is, this is going to be a learning experience," said Burbach.

Burbach said the Bayshore collapse could be a case study as engineers determine what went wrong, looking at the structure itself and the impact of how the heavy snow was placed.

Burbach said he thinks it’s certainly on the minds of parking garage owners everywhere.

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"Especially the older ones," said Burbach. "Especially when they age because the salt is extremely corrosive on that steel, and that steel is integral to the support of those structures."

Bayshore parking garage security video of collapse

When it comes to maintenance, State Rep. Darrin Madison (D-Madison) said there’s no requirement to inspect parking structures after they’re built unless they're altered or there’s a safety complaint, issuing this statement Feb. 24:

"I am very grateful that no one was hurt in the incident. Safe communities are my top priority and I recognize that this could have been much worse. I am working with stakeholders at the local and state level to find solutions that prevent something like this from happening again. 

Parking structures are considered ‘public buildings’ within state statutes 101.01 (12) and are therefore governed by the Commercial Building Code. Current statute requires building inspections when a building is constructed or altered. There is no requirement for public buildings to be inspected after construction unless it is altered or if there has been a complaint about the building’s safety. 

While there are additional challenges to inspecting most public buildings after construction is completed, parking structures are more like bridges and dams in the sense that the structural integrity is usually visible and therefore easier to inspect. Under current law bridges (s. 84.17) are required to be inspected by the DOT or local government every 2-4 years depending on circumstances and dams (s. 31.19) have required inspection intervals and responsibility that vary by dam classification. Following this precedent, one solution we are looking into would be to classify parking structures in a new manner that requires inspection periodically after construction."

Bayshore parking garage collapse (Courtesy: North Shore Fire/Rescue | Daniel Tyk)

Rep. Madison issued this follow-up statement Thursday:

"At this stage we are focused on working with local and state stakeholders to gather more information on the incident. We are currently looking into legislative options, but cannot provide tangible solutions until an investigation is complete and the problems have been correctly identified."

You may be thinking, should drivers worry about parking in structures like the one at Bayshore?

"No. I don’t think anyone should be afraid of it, but by the same token, I think there may have to – the owners and or the state inspectors may have to take a closer look," said Burbach.

Burbach said it's likely insurance companies are paying attention to this, and they may start to require more inspections of parking structures.